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Blogs posted by Tessa Birley

Here you can find all blogs posted by Tessa Birley about the FinSt project.
Posted on Fri 29 Jun 2012 at 10:46 by Tessa Birley

The fun didn’t stop after I left Estonian. I decided on getting back to campus I would seek out the Estonian students studying at the University of Aberdeen. 1. To have a Sauna party (which had been so much fun in Tallinn) and 2. To find out what the perceptions of Estonian students were of the differences between the Estonian and Scottish higher education systems. Here’s what the Estonian students said:

Laura, a 3rd year student studying for a Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies and Finance

1. What do you think of the Higher Education System in Estonia (in particular with regard to tuition fees, student support and funding)? “In Estonia, students have to pay for their own studies unless they have secured themselves state funded places at public higher educational institutions. In order to get funding, students need to get good results from the national examinations passed in a general secondary school and/or from the university's entrance examinations. I believe this system is pretty fair, however, it could be improved a little.”

2. Why did you choose to come to Scotland, and what is your impression of higher education in Scotland? “I came to study to Scotland for many reasons. I visited Scotland a couple of years prior to my coming to study here and I absolutely fell in love with this country. However, one of the major reasons was the SAAS funding for the courses.”

3. What would you say are the main differences between the two systems? “The admission process as well as the funding system seem to be quite different. What is more, it normally takes 4 years to obtain the first degree in Scotland, whereas in Estonia it takes 3 years. However, it has to do with the different degree classifications.”

Marta, a 4th year student studying a Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies and Sociology

1. What do you think of the Higher Education System in Estonia (in particular with regard to tuition fees, student support and funding)? “My thoughts are based on what I have heard from my friends as when I came to Scotland I studied first in a college and then went to university. Therefore, I never looked thoroughly into studying in Estonia. Many people do not have to pay for their studies when they get into the government budgeted places at the university. Otherwise there seems to be loans available but I do not know if they cover the degree costs.”

2. Why did you choose to come to Scotland, and what is your impression of higher education in Scotland? “I came to Scotland at first just to improve my English after finishing an English language orientated high school in Tartu. One of the important reasons why I decided to study here at a university was that we didn´t have to pay for the degree. I like going to the university here. The system is made up to teach students independence and study by themselves. The amount of time spent on studies at home can be quite limited for many Eastern European students as they have to work part time as well. But working also teaches independence and time management.”

3. What would you say are the main differences between the two systems? “The main difference seems factual learning. In Estonia one has to learn lots by heart while here one needs to show their thoughts analytically.”

Kaisa, a 4th year student studying a Master of Arts in International Relations and Management

1. What do you think of the Higher Education System in Estonia (in particular with regard to tuition fees, student support and funding)? “I think the system is very good, really. I started my undergraduate degree in Estonia, Tartu, so I do know my way in the system. I think the system of tuition fees is great because everyone who has bothered to study for the final exams will find it quite easy to get into a funded place. Also, it is quite nice that there is a certain average, you have to achieve - and then you are in, for free. I really do think it is easy to get into a funded place and I would not lower the requirements, as Estonia already has a problem of having too many highly educated people and not enough skilled workers. Thus, I think the tuition fee system is really great. Furthermore, the fees in Estonia are quite cheap, so anyone can take a loan or fund themselves, when necessary - it is really nothing like the fees in the UK, which are much-much higher. Also, if people study well and have good grades at the uni, they are entitled to get a monthly scholarship, which is not much, but helps a lot. The level of Higher Education could be a lot better, though. And also student support at the Universities should be developed - I certainly did not feel I was getting much support when studying in Tartu, whereas in Aberdeen I feel that I have all the support available, if needed.”

2. Why did you choose to come to Scotland, and what is your impression of higher education in Scotland? “I came here to acquire better education than I could have in Estonia. Furthermore, the international experience was very important for me. Also, the image of the UK unis in general is very positive and the education is well respected throughout the world. Improving my language skills and creating international links have also been a bonus. Scottish unis could have more courses available and students should have more contact hours and more courses, it would be lovely to get a more thorough understanding of the field of study. (This, for example is better in Estonia - you are taking at least 5-6 courses at the same time, which is great).”

3. What would you say are the main differences between the two systems? “Hard to pick just one thing. The main thing is definitely the matter of contact hours and number of courses mentioned before - Estonia has much much more contact hours and more courses students can take at the same time.

-E-learning facilities are better in Estonia (all kinds of electronic systems)

-In Estonia, students get a choice of 3-4 dates when they want to have their exams, so an exam is conducted many times during the exam period - that means, clashes can be avoided, students can create their own exam timetable by registering for the preferred date online, and students do not have to do 2 exams on the same day etc.

-Scotland has a much better support system and staff members are much more approachable. It is much nicer to be a student in Aberdeen than in Tartu in that sense.

- Societies do not exist in that sense in Estonia. Thus, the student life and community is much better organised and linked in Aberdeen.”

Kadri, a 1st year student studying a Master of Arts in International Relations and Anthropology

1. What do you think of the Higher Education System in Estonia (in particular with regard to tuition fees, student support and funding)? “I support higher education being free for those, who are qualified enough to get over the 'quota'. Unfortunately, if one has to pay for one's degree, I find that the quality of higher education is not necessarily worth it in Estonia, as many lecturers present outdated views and object to modern concepts and approaches within their field, without no apparent reason. At the same time, I also understand that education system on the whole, not only higher education system, is not receiving enough funding - the lecturers, tutors are underpaid and overworked. Thus, the quality of the education suffers. Additionally, students do not get enough funding from the government - their only way of financing themselves is taking a student loan or living off their parents. Many students, hence, need to work part-, or even full-time, which results in them not being able to put enough effort into receiving education. As I see it, being a student is a full-time job, as there are so many activities revolving around the university that one should take part in. But when the students need to work in order to make both ends meet, these activities then become approachable only those who can afford it, i.e. those, whose parents are helping them fund their studies. This again just widens the social gap between the rich and the poor, as those, usually, degree-related activities are closely related to possibilities for business networking and future cooperations, and it will look good on their resumes as well.”

2. Why did you choose to come to Scotland, and what is your impression of higher education in Scotland? “I came here because the subjects I wanted to study were not available in Estonia in such combinations. I also liked the idea of being able to combine my own preferred courses, especially during the first year, where one might not be very certain about one's degree choice - trying out various subjects might direct a student into unknown fields, or just the opposite - make her/him sure about the choice made. Additionally, as for me receiving higher education was for free both in Estonia and Scotland, I came here because of the better teaching qualities, and an English-speaking environment. The latter being relevant due to the direction of my degree.”

3. What would you say are the main differences between the two systems? “In Scotland, a student is given more freedom in terms of what she / he wants to study, e.g. a joint degree - producing, therefore, more interdisciplinary experts, who are believed to be more valuable to any given field. Personally, I also appreciate small tutorial groups and the need and want to discuss matter further amongst students, and not just passively learn by sitting and listening to lectures. Moreover, I feel that it is much easier to communicate with any given lecturer / tutor here in Scotland than in Estonia, where the student-lecturer relationship is viewed very hierarchically. The more approachable lecturers are, the more possibilities they also have to personally motivate students and give more insight into their own research fields and methods.

Also, I find that the Estonian universities could benefit from taking an example from the very lively student life (a very active and a relevant student union, numerous student societies, etc), as gives an additional value to any university experience. Plus, the existence of one single university campus creates a better academic atmosphere to learn in (as opposed to different buildings scattered around all over the town, as it appears to be the case in Estonia).”

Maria, 2nd year student studying a Master of Arts in European Management

1. What do you think of the Higher Education System in Estonia (in particular with regard to tuition fees, student support and funding)? “I think that the system lacks of support for students. The funding is available for only the brightest students, but is definitely not enough to cover the living expenses. Also, most of the students have to pay tuition fees, as there are only limited number of free places for the students with best final exam results and final marks. As it is generally impossible to find a part-time job during the studies, the student living conditions are quite poor.”

2. Why did you choose to come to Scotland, and what is your impression of higher education in Scotland? “I wanted to study in an English-speaking environment, also wanted to get out from the small country and it`s mentality for a while. I like the system of the education in here. The possibility to choose the subjects that you`re into, change them easily, and study two favourable subjects as the honours. Personally, I would prefer some more pressure instead of self-reading and -learning as sometimes it is hard to find motivation for that in this student city, full of opportunities.”

3. What would you say are the main differences between the two systems? “Estonian system is more strict, more weekly tasks, reading and coursework, skipping the lectures is not favourable at all. It is easier to fail the courses there.”

Jevgenia, 1st year student studying for a Master of Arts in History of Art and German

1. What do you think of the Higher Education System in Estonia (in particular with regard to tuition fees, student support and funding)? “ As far as I do not study in Estonia, I am not completely aware of all the problems that occur in our higher education system. The grants are really low and support in general is poor. Some of my friends from Finland have their flat rent in Scotland paid by the Finnish state. Unfortunately, we do not have things like that at all. (Our wages are very low as well). However, our accomodation fees in student halls are not so extremely high, as here. Comparing to fees here, it must be three times lower.”

2. Why did you choose to come to Scotland, and what is your impression of higher education in Scotland? “I came to Scotland to gain some learning and hands-on experience for my future life and career. Moreover, I like to communicate with people from different countries. In addition, I admire the nature and calmness here. The overall Scottish learning system is really great.”

3. What would you say are the main differences between the two systems? “Firstly, the link between theory and practice. In Estonia, probably, more attention is concentrated on theory, than on practice. Secondly, the speed of learning languages. Of course, probably it depends on a place you learn it. But I know from my experience, that I have learned German for 3 years at school, and I knew exactly the same, that I know now after taking a one-year German for beginners course. Thirdly, the age of the teachers and the teacher-student relationships. Here I have very many young tutors, and the relationship is perhaps a little more friendly, that is not really common for Estonia. Then the duration of holidays. In Estonia we do not usually have a two-week or three-week Easter holidays. Many of my friends in Estonian universities do not have Easter vacation at all. Finally, the attendance issue. When I miss the lecture or the tutorial here, I must submit several papers telling why I did that. In Estonia it is not so strict as in here.”

Einar, 3rd year student studying for a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Chemistry

1. What do you think of the Higher Education System in Estonia (in particular with regard to tuition fees, student support and funding)? “I think the Higher Education System in Estonia works pretty well. The students who are motivated to study and have good grades from Secondary School have an opportunity to study for free. Students who did not achieve so good results still have an opportunity to start a degree at university level, paying tuition fees. It all depends on the result listings from graduates from Secondary. Education as there are certain number of Government paid “free” and “payable” places each year for each degree programme. Students who are at the top of the listings with good results get a Government paid place. It depends on a degree, but normally there are quite a few Government paid places. When you get a “payable” place, there is an opportunity to take a student loan. The student loan is not very big which you can get. Also, when you study in Estonian university there are scholarships paid “automatically” according to your study performance. In my opinion the system itself works very well, as certain number of best study performance students in your class will get a monthly scholarship. A huge drawback is that the scholarships are very small.”

2. Why did you choose to come to Scotland, and what is your impression of higher education in Scotland? “When I graduated from Secondary Education I decided to study abroad in English speaking country. I decided to do so to get a foreign country study experience and broaden my views and mind. It was like a challenge, a new page in your book of life. Of course, there are many advantages: friends and acquaintances all over the world; improvement of English etc. Furthermore, as I study a science degree, research is much more funded here and much more practical work in science degrees takes place in undergraduate level. In Estonian universities we have a lot of potential, but lack of money/funding for research. Last but not least, a huge advantage is that European Union students do not need to pay their tuition fees in Scotland at undergraduate level.”

3. What would you say are the main differences between the two systems? “Bachelor’s degree here is 4 years, in Estonia it is 3 years. I would say that Estonian universities are more academic and theory based (Which I do not say is bad, but sometimes it might be quite far away from everyday life. Of course for every aspect the theoretical base is very important, but just knowing the theoretical side without practical experience is worth less.) and UK’s universities include more practical aspects as well. In my opinion, some students who start university in Scotland are immature (as they could be young as 17, whereas the age in Estonia is 19). Therefore, I have a feeling that the level of first year (or maybe even two) is too low. It might be just the difference between the systems as in Estonia normally the first year is the hardest (to get rid of unmotivated students?). Here it is different as the level builds up gradually.”

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Posted on Tue 10 Apr 2012 at 15:33 by Tessa Birley

This briefing from the wonderful NUS Scotland makes for good reading if you are interested in student financing issues which if you are on this blog then I'm sure you will be. #finstgeeks

Higher Education in Scotland


Scotland is awesome because…

Full-time, first time Scottish-domiciled students do not pay tuition fees

If you’re studying full-time and it’s your first degree, you won’t pay fees – before, during or after your course. In England, fees can be up to £9,000 a year. Most of Europe has lower or no tuition fees though. Only Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the rest of the UK charge fees of more than £750/€900 per year. (From the OECD ‘Education at a Glance’ http://bit.ly/rlYDiq)(external link) The Scottish Government has also recently announced increased investment for universities - £135 million by 2014/15 – to ensure that they aren’t losing out on funding compared to English universities who do charge fees.

Having no tuition fees and properly funding universities is dead important because…

We know that tuition fees, however and whenever they need to be paid, put potential students off studying, and particularly those from poorer backgrounds. Recent UCAS application statistics have shown that while overall applications to English universities have dropped by 8.4%, applications to Scottish universities have increased by 0.1%. (From UCAS http://bit.ly/GWraLr(external link) Table 4f). Scottish applications to English universities (where students will pay up to £9000) have decreased by 15.9% while applications to Scottish universities have fallen by just 1.5%.

Using public investment and not private tuition fees to fund universities is also important for opportunities and student choice. The removal of significant amounts of public funding in England and replacement with private tuition fees mean that university places in England will drop by around 11,000. The Scottish Government has guaranteed the protection of university places in Scotland with increases in public funding.

A report from the University and College Union (UCU) has shown that the number of full-time undergraduate courses on offer at English universities has dropped by 31%, representing a significant decrease in student choice of study, despite the increasing costs of tuition. The corresponding figure for Scottish universities shows significantly fewer course cuts - of just 3% with Scotland’s rejection of tuition fees and a ‘consumer’ approach to education. (From UCU, http://bit.ly/H0qwiQ)(external link)

Students in Scotland receive a student loan for their living costs and some receive a non-repayable bursary

Students can receive up to £5417 (for households earning under £24,000 for young students and for those households earning under £20,500 for independent students). The minimum loan of £915 is available to all and is the maximum available to households earning over £61,000. There’s also a £785 top up loan for the very poorest students. The highest amount of £785 is paid for a household income of £18,300 or less a year, which will go down to zero for a household income over £22,789 a year.

The Government will pay a bursary to the poorest students to replace some of this loan. This reduces the amount the student owes at the end of their degree. Young students (aged under 25) can receive up to £2640 per year, with independent students (those aged 25 or more) receiving up to £1000 per year. You get the full amount if your household income is £19,310 or less a year, which will go down to zero for a household income over £34,195 a year.

Good student support is vital to ensure that students can afford to stay at university and focus on their studies without worrying about their finances

NUS Scotland’s Still in the Red research in 2010 surveyed over 7000 students about their finances and it was clear from the responses that insufficient student support causes real problems.

  • 53% of HE students reported having to access commercial debt to supplement their income
  • 69% said they were not receiving enough student support to concentrate on their studies.
  • 60% reported worrying either “frequently” or “all of the time” about money
  • More than a third of HE students (36%) had considered dropping out of studies because of their financial difficulties
  • 90% of those that had considered dropping out reported it was due to “not receiving enough financial support”

At the moment, though student support is good, students in Scotland do receive less in student support than students in England, and the impact on drop out is evident in the data.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that Scotland has the worst record of any country in the UK for students dropping out of studies before completing them, and worse than the average. (From HESA http://bit.ly/sUGmKn)(external link)

Table showing the percentage of students who drop out after their first year

Drop out
2010/112009/2010% Change
England8.47.80.6
Wales97.41.6
Scotland9.49.30.1
Northern Ireland8.39-0.7
UK8.67.90.6


Student support in Scotland is going to be increased

In their most recent budget, the Scottish Government has included an additional £260 million in loans for students by 2014/15, to improve student support and to provide a minimum income guarantee of £7,000 for the poorest HE students. From 2013/14, students on the lowest incomes will receive the minimum income of £7,000 and the Scottish Government is working with students on the best way to make this happen.

Student loans in Scotland have subsidised interest rates and students repay once they’re earning a certain amount

Students repay loans from the April after they graduate. Unlike bank loans, the amount you repay depends on your income with employers taking repayments straight from a graduate’s earnings at a rate of 9% on earnings over £15,000. Loans have a subsidised interest rate of no more than inflation, which in real terms makes the interest rate 0%. Interest rates are also not allowed to be more than 1% higher than the Bank of England’s base rate meaning interest on student loans can be lower than inflation (like now – interest 1.5% vs 5% inflation). Student loan debt is written off by the government after 35 years, if a graduate dies or if a graduate becomes permanently disabled or unfit to work.

Students are involved in the governance of their universities and valued as partners in their education

Every institution has student representatives on their governing bodies and on a range of committees – for example learning and teaching committees – where decisions are being taken which affect students. The Scottish higher education system particularly values student engagement and involvement in the life and work of their institutions, and the majority of universities recognise the important role of students’ associations in ensuring the best possible student experience. The Scottish Funding Council funds an agency, called sparqs in Scotland which is dedicated to increasing student participation in the quality of the education. At a national level, student representatives sit on almost all the sector boards and committees responsible for making decisions about the future of the sector.

Student involvement in governance is to be expanded

An independent review of university governance has just been concluded and it recommends a greater role for students in governance, including:

  • Involvement of students on appointment and remuneration panels for university senior management
  • Chairs of university governing bodies should be elected by students and staff
  • Students’ associations should have at least two members on governing bodies, at least one of whom should be a woman


Scotland is not so great though because…

Scotland has a poor record on getting students from poorer backgrounds into university

In 2010/11, Scotland's universities had the worst record in the whole of the UK for widening access to university. Only just over 27% of students going to university in Scotland were from the poorest backgrounds (Socio-Economic Classification 4 – 7, which is based on the job done by a student’s parent(s)), lower than any other part of the UK, and below the average of just over 30% (see table 1). The percentage of entrants to Scottish universities from state schools and colleges (see table 2), was just over 88%, slightly better than the English rate, but lower than the UK average. (Stats from HESA http://bit.ly/dWwFYA)(external link)

Table 1 - Entrants to university from more deprived backgrounds

Young socio economic class 4-7 entrants
2010/112009/10% Change
England30.730.10.6
Wales3130.20.8
Scotland27.225.81.4
Northern Ireland39.439.10.3
UK30.6300.6



Table 2 - Entrants to university from state schools or colleges

State school entrants
2010/112009/10% Change
England88.288.4-0.2
Scotland92.293.2-1
Wales88.386.22.1
Northern Ireland98.999.2-0.3
UK88.788.8-0.1



But the Scottish Government is working on this too (and so are students)

The Scottish Government’s recent review of Post 16 education included proposals to introduce new laws to widen access to Scottish universities, including a duty on institutions to ‘contextualise admissions’ by looking at the circumstances of applicants as well as their grades. The Government has also proposed introducing Widening Access Outcome Agreements. These agreements could mean that universities who fail to improve their recruitment of non-traditional students and students from poorer backgrounds could face financial penalties. The Government is also considering allowing universities to over-recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Students are supporting these measures and will be working with the Government on their development, implementation and monitoring.

Overall participation rates in higher education are lower than a number of other countries in Europe

Overall the participation rate in university higher education in the UK is around 40.6% (from 2009 figures) when you adjust for international student numbers (which are fairly high). Scottish participation rates are roughly the same as the UK overall.

Students studying in Scotland from the rest of the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland) may be charged fees of up to £9,000 a year

Because of the increased fees elsewhere in the UK, the Scottish Government has allowed Scottish universities to charge fees up to a cap of £9,000 per year to students from the rest of the UK (RUK) studying in Scotland – in theory to prevent these students from seeing Scotland as a ‘cheap’ option and reducing the places available to Scottish students. Universities are allowed to vary the fees they charge up to this cap, creating a market in Scottish higher education for RUK students. This also means degrees at some Scottish universities are the most expensive in the UK at £36,000 because the typical Scottish degree is one year longer than in England. It’s not clear to what (if any) extent this discrimination within nations occurs elsewhere in Europe. In Germany, individual Länder (states) have different tuition fees, and some have none, but students will pay different fees depending on where they attend university, not where they are from.

The Scottish Government is trying to find a way to charge EU students to study in Scotland

Because of EU law, EU students coming to study in Scotland have to receive the same treatment as Scottish students in terms of tuition fees. Because a number of EU students do choose to study in Scotland, the Scottish Government has estimated it is costing them £75 million to subsidise EU students in Scotland. Because of a need to save money, they are now investigating ways in which they could charge a fee to EU students without breaking EU law.

For more information email mail at nus-scotland.org.uk

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Posted on Wed 04 Apr 2012 at 11:38 by Tessa Birley

Financing the Students’ Future

By Tessa Birley, Student President, Aberdeen University Students’ Association

3rd April 2012

Goodbye Sunny Scotland, Hello Snowy Estonia. I’ve left behind what was a tropical Aberdeen, Scotland and landed in a foot of snow in Estonia to participate in the FinST Project. So what is FinST? FinST is a joint research project which is being run by the European Students’ Union (ESU). There are four main partners; NUS UK, the national union of Austria, the national union of Estonia and a European research organisation (HIS). It aims to find out more about finance systems, lobbying systems and share experience between unions whilst improving the knowledge of how higher education is financed across Europe.

Who is it? So I have travelled to Tallinn, Estonia to work with representatives from different countries affiliated with the European Students’ Union. There are 6 international delegates including myself from Scotland, Wales, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland and France (Wales and Poland haven’t arrived yet) who have come together with student reps and staff from the Estonian National Union. Student Exchanges in UK and Austria have already taken place, this is the last one.

Day 1- Monday 2nd April 2012

Arrived to Tallinn airport where I was collected by Kaisa from EUL who is co-ordinating the exchange. I was then driven to the halls of residence at the University of Tallinn where we are staying for most of the 2 weeks. Very quickly we headed out for a tour of Tallinn which was very snowy, but the Old part of the town is really beautiful. Then for some pub grub (hotdog sausages, cabbage and potatoes) with some very Estonia music playing in the oldest pub in Tallinn. Then finally a quick trip to the supermarket to stock up.

Day 2- Tuesday 3rd April 2012

We met at EUL HQ in Tallinn for a day of presentations, discussions and group work with Kaisa- EUL, Eimar- Chair person of EUL, Monika- Vice-Chair EUL , Tanel- Officer of Academic Affairs- Learning and Teaching, Marleen- Social Researcher EUL, Max- NUS Luxemburg, Hubert- Hungarian Students’ Union and Quentin from France- Internationalisation and Youth (apologies for incorrect spellings, wrong job titles).

Notes from session about higher education funding in Estonia

Institutional funding

  • Public funding- stable for last ten years (0.9%-1.1% of GDP)
  • Private funding is expected to grow due to increasing student numbers
  • This is about average for OECD countries
  • Aim is that 50% of school leavers have a place in Higher Education
  • Institutions have pretty much got autonomy in managing own finances

Student Funding

About half of those going get tuition fees waived on the basis of academic merit and pay nothing. However, the rest have to pay a certain amount- there is a market in higher education- different institutions- different costs. Access has increased- there are more places but it is being seen an increasingly unfair and limiting choice for students.

Student Support

  • Loans and grants are again based on academic performance
  • 15-17% of students receive them.
  • Loans are repayable after graduation and are not linked to income
  • They are extremely limited and students receive no assistance with living expenses.

What they are working on

Priorities are:

  • Means tested loan
  • Students moving from purchasers in their education to partners
  • Student Support for part-time students


Notes from Presentation about Funding in Estonia, Presentation by Chair of EUL, Eimar

The Model

First University established in Estonia was the University of Tartu. From then until the 1950s the funding was a mixture; tuition fees, government gave money to institutions, institutions made their own money from real estate- the funding model was already a diverse one. So students, University and state contributed. In the 50s, Estonia was a socialist country. The word private was somehow criminal; everything was “state” and “planned”.

Today’s public funding model goes back to the 70/80s in the era of the technical/scientific revolution. That rhetoric continues today but the context and funding is different. Tuition fees came in the 1990s due to lack of funding. Strong liberal and market reforms, privatisation and then came tuition fees.

EUL critiques: the best lunch for an Estonian is another Estonian.

Money per student was cut not the study places. EUL argued for accessibility to be protected- that students should have the possibility to study. Although aware of the dangers- decreased quality and support.

The Government has set the prices for different courses. Tuition fees are calculated in a way that seems to be numbers just pulled out the air. For example Law it cheap to teach, but the most expensive. The fees should be cost based, and not market driven.

You could say there is no grant system as not all students are eligible varies from institution to institution. There is no connection between the student’s background and the system. It is a state regulated private loan. So called “crocodiles committee” ate the budget and cut the extra money for student parents. Abolished student loan compensation mechanism. Politically sensitive topic. EUL have helped students through court to fight it: won some cases, lost some cases. There is really little difference to a private bank loan.

Some facts and figures (approx)

  • 70,000 students: 10,000 drop out (1/3 return to study at some point), 10,000 graduate
  • 1/3 of the students are older 25
  • 1/5 have a child
  • So lots of part time students, lots of returners, lots of student parents
  • Estonian student have one of the highest rates for full time working
  • Students coming directly from school are a minority.


The future

EUL is the only stake holder promoting free education for many years. They have had a very systematic fight about the fees for 7 years. Free education is now favoured over tuition fees. The right wing Government is pro-fees but the social-democrats and socialists have said they are in favour of state funded. The Conservatives have started to speak about free education and getting rid of inequality. 3 of the 4 parties support free education.

There will be 40% more state funded places from 2014. Which means the majority will be covered.

5 demands

  • All full-time students should be free.
  • The right to study under academic leave/flexible study options
  • A proper robust network of grants, not loans
  • Want to have a more equal entrance to university.
  • More co-operation and less competition.

Homework from Day 2

  • Prepare information about SPARQs (a Scottish thing) for Knowledge Cafe on the 13th April
  • Prepare Presentation on Scotland finance system (DONE!)
  • Blog entry for their website about what you’ve been up to and learnt (DONE!)
  • Think about what topic I’d like to write an article on
  • Read articles about Estonia’s finance system (DONE!)

Thanks,

Tessa

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Posted on Tue 10 Apr 2012 at 15:22 by Tessa Birley

A comparison of tuition fees and student support between Scotland and Estonia ...and why it matters

Tuition fees

In Scotland

If you’re studying full-time and it’s your first degree, you won’t pay fees – before, during or after your course.

In Estonia

Students will either 1. Pay nothing for their tuition fees and occupy a state-commissioned place, or 2. Pay the full cost of their tuition fees. State places are allocated by higher education institutions to students studying full-time based on academic performance.

Student Support

In Scotland

Students can receive up to £5417 (for households earning under £24,000 for young students and for those households earning under £20,500 for independent students). The minimum loan of £915 is available to all and is the maximum available to households earning over £61,000. There’s also a £785 top up loan for the very poorest students. The highest amount of £785 is paid for a household income of £18,300 or less a year, which will go down to zero for a household income over £22,789 a year. The Government will pay a bursary to the poorest students to replace some of this loan. This reduces the amount the student owes at the end of their degree. Young students (aged under 25) can receive up to £2640 per year, with independent students (those aged 25 or more) receiving up to £1000 per year. You get the full amount if your household income is £19,310 or less a year, which will go down to zero for a household income over £34,195 a year.

In Estonia

Support for students is provided in the form of grants for living costs and a student loan scheme. Eligibility for these grants is restricted to students in free state places and only 5% are distributed on the basis of financial need. In 2006, only 15% and 17% of students received a basic and supplementary allowance respectively. A student loan scheme is available for all students who are studying full time. They can borrow up to a maximum of about 1,100 Euro. The loans are provided by private financial institutions, and repayment of loans commences 12 months after the completion of studies. It is not known what proportions of students are taking up these loans.

So why does it matter?

In both of these countries the drop-out rate is relatively high. In Scotland it is about 9% in first year and in Estonia about 14%. And we know that good student support is vital to ensure that students can afford to stay at university and focus on their studies without worrying about their finances. NUS Scotland’s Still in the Red research in 2010 surveyed over 7000 students about their finances and it was clear from the responses that insufficient student support causes real problems

  • 53% of HE students reported having to access commercial debt to supplement their income

  • 69% said they were not receiving enough student support to concentrate on their studies.

  • 60% reported worrying either “frequently” or “all of the time” about money

  • More than a third of HE students (36%) had considered dropping out of studies because of their financial difficulties

  • 90% of those that had considered dropping out reported it was due to “not receiving enough financial support”

What’s interesting about the student support in Estonia is that it does seem to be based entirely on the so-called "ability to learn not the ability to pay". However I think it is clear that the student support is not good enough, a point which the Education ministry has acknowledged and the review of higher education in Estonia aims for fairer access and moving towards needs based study allowances and student loans. Furthermore the Archimedes Foundation is working on a number of projects including addressing the large drop-out rate in first year. They have created an introductory course teaching all students how to study in Higher Education, they are supporting the creation of training and mentoring programmes and creating an early warning system identifying students that are likely to drop out as to provide support to them as soon as possible. However the main point is that financial support available to students is substantially invested in and reformed to be based on financial need.

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